It is possible for a spouse intentionally left out of the other spouse’s will to still receive a share of the estate in the event of death. Pennsylvania law provides for an “elective share” pursuant to 20 Pa. C.S. 2203(a). This law provides that if a person is still married at the time of their death with no divorce pending, the surviving spouse can elect to receive 1/3 of that person’s estate. There are items that are excluded from the estate in instances where an elective share will be applied. 2203(b) states the following exceptions: (1) any conveyance made with the express consent or joinder of the surviving spouse; (2) the proceeds of insurance, including accidental death benefits, on the life of the decedent; (3) interests under any broad-based nondiscriminatory pension, profit sharing, stock bonus, deferred compensation, disability, death benefit or other such plan established by an employer for benefit of its employees and their beneficiaries; (4) property passing by the decedent’s exercise or non-exercise of any power of appointment given by someone other than the decedent.

To simplify, a surviving spouse cannot receive any portion of something that they already agreed to give away by way of previously consenting to it. As it relates to subsections (2), (3) and (4), accounts that have a beneficiary designation will pass to the named beneficiary. Additionally, the surviving spouse waives the right to seek other items they may have been entitled to if they choose to exercise the elective share. The surviving spouse must reduce to writing their intent to exercise the elective share and timely file with the court. Either spouse may waive their right to exercise the elective share before or during the marriage or even after death of their spouse. This waiver could be included in a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, for example. It is wise to consult with an attorney to see if choosing the elective share is the best outcome if you are left out of a spouse’s will.

Parties should be aware of court requirements prior to moving with minor children. A local move may not require any additional steps to be taken other than just providing the new address to the other parent. If the move is of a significant distance and could impact the existing custody schedule additional steps must be taken prior to moving. Pennsylvania’s custody relocation statute, 23 PA C.S. 5337, requires the party seeking relocation to get court approval or the other parent’s permission prior to relocation. A relocation is defined as any move that would “significantly impair the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights.” Procedurally, the party intending to relocate should give at least 60 days’ notice or notice as soon as possible after they have knowledge of the relocation. A full hearing on the relocation should be held prior to the move if the relocation is contested. In addition to addressing the 16 factors to consider in any custody award, the moving party must also address the 10 relocation factors. The moving party has the burden of proof to show relocation will serve the best interests of the child(ren) and that there is no improper motive in seeking to move.

Failure to abide by the procedures listed in the statute has consequences. Specifically, Section 5337(j) discusses the ramifications for failure to provide adequate notice and follow the appropriate channels. The court may consider the lack of notice as a factor when making a final determination on the relocation and whether custody rights should be modified. The court can also view the lack of notice as a basis for ordering the return of the child to the jurisdiction. The court may order the party who improperly relocated to pay attorneys’ fees and expenses on behalf of the party who must initiate litigation to indicate their opposition to the relocation. The court can also treat it as a matter of contempt and impose sanctions against the moving party. Finally, 5337(l) explains the court is not permitted to confer any presumption in favor of the relocation where it occurs before the court holds a final hearing.

Divorce affects one in two marriages in the United States every year, and as time passes that percentage continues to increase. If you are involved in a marriage, it is important that you remain cognizant of the common signs that ultimately lead to divorce. If these trends are present in your relationship, there are some methods you may employ in order to save your marriage.

If your marriage is becoming an overwhelmingly negative experience there is a good chance your marriage is going to be coming to an end. Carrie Krawiec, a marriage counselor and therapist out of Michigan, suggests that for every single negative moment there should be five positive moments. This 5:1 ratio seems to be the balance required to maintain good chemistry between partners.

When unremorseful infidelity occurs there is also a very high likelihood the marriage is going to end. To the surprise of many, cheating can be overcome. In order to do so, it must be met with genuine understanding, love, compassion, and an unrelenting effort from both sides to fix that which was broken.

The decline of physical interaction between partners is a sign that the marriage is on the decline. This point goes far beyond sexual interactions. The simple things that have huge implications include hand-holding, hugs, kisses, and general physical contact. Body language is a very primal and intimate way to communicate sensually with your partner, and when that ends the marriage is likely to end as well.

Enough of the negative. Let’s look at some signs that suggest your marriage can be saved.

If you and your partner continue to go on dates there is a high likelihood that your marriage is salvageable. There is no doubt that our day to day lives have become filled with more and more chaos and to-do’s than those in the past. However, if you and your partner still make time to spend a Friday evening with one another for quality “couple time” there is a chance that the marriage can be saved.

If one partner fails to remain faithful, it doesn’t mean that the marriage is over. Despite the harsh negative emotions that accompany cheating, if both parties truly want the marriage to continue there are ways to make it happen. Understanding that cheating is usually the symptom of a larger problem within the relationship gives both partners the foundation upon which they can build.

Finally, if you are still comfortable enough to share your thoughts and emotions with your partner, the union is likely still strong enough to save. If both parties are able to offer a sanctuary within which they can truly be themselves, there are positive implications on the strength of the relationship.

Part of the divorce settlement process includes determining how to divide marital assets equitably. Equitably does not always mean equally, and factors in that calculation may differ from state to state. However, one thing that divorcing spouses need to avoid is the dissipation of marital assets.

Dissipation is the legal term for using funds in an extraordinary or unnecessary manner – in other words, wasting money. Such expenditures can be deemed as retaliatory, or an effort to decrease the spouse’s portion of the assets, and can result in penalties.

While going through the divorce procedure, avoid major expenses that are not typical, for instance purchasing a luxury automobile or going on vacation. Even frequent smaller purchases could be considered dissipation if the accumulated expenditure becomes substantial. Avoid the sale of assets: a boat, jewelry, etc. Even if you think it is “yours,” in the judgment of the court, all assets acquired during the marriage are deemed joint assets and will be calculated into the total sum of marital assets.

When a spouse brings a complaint of dissipation and the court judges in his or her favor, the judge generally will award that asset to the spouse who spent it and give the other spouse a financial award in the same amount. For instance, if you spent $20,000 on a luxurious vacation, the judge will determine that you have spent $20,000 of your assets already and your spouse may get $20,000 more than you do at the division of assets.

But what if you suspect your spouse to be the one wasting money? It can be difficult to prove if you do not have access to all financial records during the divorce. Major purchases or expenditures may be easier to identify, but for frequent extravagant expenses, gambling losses, or other wasteful spending, you may have to engage a forensic accountant to analyze the expenditures in order to determine if they are substantial and frivolous.


Prior to a divorce, a person may be tempted to hide money. If most of the money is in your spouse’s name, it is a wise idea to move some funds into an account in your name so that you have money available in the short term. However, do not hide it. Money can be traced, and the court may further penalize you for perceived ill will. And under some circumstances, a spouse can demonstrate dissipation started before the divorce was filed, so spend carefully if you suspect a divorce is imminent.

If you are paying or receiving support in Pennsylvania you are likely dealing with PASCDU. The acronym stands for the Pennsylvania Statewide Collection and Disbursement Unit. They are responsible for collecting support from the payors and giving support to the payees. Payors are warned at the time an award is established that they will not receive credit for direct payments to the payee and all payments must go through PASCDU. Payors should receive information on sending payments to PASCDU at their support conference or hearing. Local domestic relations offices may be able to accept payments as well. Wage garnishment is the preferred method of collection for support. Once it is set up, payors do not need to worry about sending payments in any longer as the support due will be automatically withheld from their pay.

Payees should receive information on receiving payments from PASCDU at the support proceeding. They can elect to receive the money on an electronic card similar to a debit card or they can provide their bank information to allow for direct deposit. If electing to receive support via direct deposit, the payee must have their bank complete an enrollment form. PASCDU keeps track of all payments in and out and will generate contempt petitions if payments fall behind. For parties having issues with support the first step to take is to contact your local domestic relations office. PASCDU is located in Harrisburg. Additional information is available online at

Spousal support and alimony are calculated based on a complex combination of factors including income, age, health, length of marriage, and expenses. These calculations vary from state to state, but the assumption is usually that the spouse receiving support from the ex (and statistically, it’s usually the wife) does not have another adult partner helping to provide financial support.

But what if you suspect your ex-wife is living with someone and getting help paying the bills? This doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. The issue is primarily whether or not she’s getting financial help. If that’s the case, your support or alimony would likely be reduced or terminated. So how can you prove it?

1. Surveillance: This can be done by you or by a private investigator. A private investigator may be pricey, but you will avoid the possibility of being accused of stalking or harassment. In addition, a private eye can testify in court. One thing to look for is car activity. Is your ex-spouse’s car at another address overnight on a regular basis, or is someone else’s car at her house overnight frequently? Get pictures of the car there late at night and still there early the next morning. Getting pictures of your spouse or the other person coming or going is also helpful.

2. Look for evidence: You’ll want to interview neighbors and friends. Ask questions that may lead to information about the living arrangements or recent behavior of your ex. You should also watch social media. Are there lots of posts that mention a significant other? Images of them together? Take screenshots.

3. Get subpoenas: Cell tower location data will tell you where your spouse has been. Records from the landlord, utility companies, and banks that hold loans or the mortgage can help determine who’s writing the checks. A records request from local law enforcement can tell you who has listed that address as their address. It will also tell you if there’s been any police activity there.

This information may be particularly valuable if children are involved. Cohabitation may affect child custody arrangements, especially if any police activity has taken place at the residence where your spouse lives.

Again, rules change from state to state, and some require remarriage to terminate alimony. Look into the rules of your state on this matter, and if necessary, take some of the steps listed above to find out once and for all if your spouse is getting significant financial help.

A jointly owned property is frequently addressed in family law actions. It may be defined as a marital asset hence subjecting it to equitable distribution. Financial responsibility for the property may also be a factor in the context of a support action. If only one party is making payments on a marital residence while a divorce is pending, they may be able to seek a credit for payments made. This may be the case if both parties are residing in the home or if the party not contributing to the mortgage is residing in the home. Mortgage payments may also be considered in the course of establishing a support award. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-6 covers adjustment to basic support awards and allocation of additional expenses. Under sub-section (e) mortgage payments, real estate taxes, and homeowners’ insurance may need to be considered. Second mortgages, home equity loans and other obligations secured by the marital residence may be considered but are within the discretion of the court and addressed on a case-by-case basis.

The expense to maintain the marital residence can be considered if the total expense exceeds 25% of the obligee’s (party receiving support) or obligor’s (party paying support) income. If the obligee is in the marital residence and paying the mortgage, the court would look to see if the mortgage payment exceeds 25% of the obligee’s income after considering the basic support award. If the mortgage is still more than 25% the court can direct the obligor to assume up to 50% of the excess resulting in an increased support award. Obligors can also receive assistance with the mortgage if they are the party in the marital residence or responsible for the payments. The basic support award is subtracted from the obligor’s net income first. If the mortgage payment is more than 25% of the remaining net income available to the obligor, the court may make a downward deviation in the basic support award. The mortgage deviation is only applicable prior to final equitable distribution in the divorce matter. Additionally, the courts are more likely to allow for a mortgage deviation in cases where the home is ultimately going to be sold as opposed to a case where one party intends to keep the residence post-divorce.

Former military members may be eligible to receive a number of different veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Possible benefits include disability compensation, pension benefits, life insurance, educational benefits and more. Veterans benefits cannot be divided as an asset in a divorce case. This is due to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). The Pennsylvania Divorce Code confirms this rule. Under 23 Pa. Section 3501(a), discussing the definitions for marital benefits, veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure are defined as non-marital. Additionally, the veteran gets to decide how to use educational benefits and who to designate as beneficiary for their life insurance.

Veterans benefits can be classified as income for purposes of determining a child support award; specifically, disability payments. The disability payments are intended to compensate the veteran for lost earnings and to support their family. There are restrictions as to when veterans’ benefits can be garnished. In the event the benefits cannot be garnished, that does not mean that the veteran is not still responsible for the support payments as determined by the guidelines.

Copies of the current support order and records of any arrears owed and former payment history will need to be supplied to the VA to review as evidence when making its determination on whether garnishment is appropriate and a reasonable amount to be garnished.